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Terry Thomas uses music to remember his brother, and hopes others don't forget him

"Nobody really speaks about the Timothy Thomas situation anymore"
Posted at 5:00 AM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 18:28:52-04

Twenty years ago, in the early morning hours of April 7, 2001, Cincinnati Police Officer Stephen Roach shot and killed 19-year-old Timothy Thomas in an Over-the-Rhine alley. Thomas was the 15th Black man killed by police since 1995, and his death sparked days of unrest that highlighted a deep divide between Cincinnati’s Black community and the police. That mistrust, along with lawsuits accusing the department of a decades-long history of racial profiling, helped shape the Collaborative Agreement. We hope our coverage online, on air and on all streaming platforms will start a conversation about what led to the unrest, what has happened since and what work still needs to be done.

Today, Terry Thomas runs into many young people who don't know anything about his brother or his connection to a pivotal time in Cincinnati's history.

"Nobody really speaks about the Timothy Thomas situation anymore," he said. "For me, I do a lot more just making sure the Thomas name is represented more. More than just being shot down by a police officer."

Terry Thomas was 16 when his older brother Timothy was killed by a Cincinnati police officer on April 7, 2001 in Over-the-Rhine. Timothy was 19, and Terry wants to make sure people don't forget. He said his brother was a young father who was starting to turn around his life. He said Timothy ran out of time.

"He was trying to do the right thing, but it didn’t go any further than that. His son was three months when he died,” Thomas said.

Now that Thomas is an adult with a wife and children, he is taking advantage of his second chance to do what's right and create a legacy that makes them proud. He has a business in Mt. Washington called Team Grinderz that is a convenience store, media production studio and community space under one roof.

"Just basically a team of entrepreneurs getting together, working, building, offering opportunities to others, helping building other businesses," Thomas said.

For Thomas, it's following his dream to produce music. He says he has written several rap songs about various topics, some are party songs, but others have meaningful messages. His latest song is called Manifest Greatness.

"That message was kind of where I am now, right. I spent like the last year, like 2019 and 2020 trying to focus on what I can do to make things better," he said. "Focusing on positive energy instead of the negative and started learning that type of thing. And, started making music in that light."

Thomas' music and business all have a connection to his brother. He works with musicians, business partners and his church to keep Timothy Thomas' name alive. There are also drawings of his brother subtly placed around the establishment. They are constant reminders.

"It wasn't like he didn't do anything for the police to bother him. But, he definitely didn't do something to lose his life," Thomas said. He admits he too has had his encounters with the law, even recently.

“He was like, it seems like you’re intoxicated. I’m like, I don’t drink,” Thomas described. He said the charges were dropped, but not after he was arrested and had to pay fees. He wants others to learn from his experiences, and his brother's.

He said he tries to explain to young people that they have time to make good choices, sooner rather than later.

"Not one ticket was worth (that), (there isn't) anything worth that," he said. "So, just make the right decisions, I guess that’s the only thing I can give.”

PODCAST: 'That could've been my family ... that could've been me': Timothy Thomas' death still aches Listen to the full conversation in the podcast player above.